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As CLE-based Acendex looks to fill senior tech positions, it trains entry-level staffers

Since 1988, Beachwood-based Acendex has been the go-to IT consulting company for businesses looking for information and communications systems. “We’re like the IT department for companies too small to afford the talent and too large to not have high-end support for their systems,” says Jonathan Husni, founder and president of Acendex.
The Acendex philosophy is to let their clients focus on what they do, while Husni and his team build the right voice and data networks to help them do those jobs.
With the local economy improving, business has picked up. To cover the increased business, Acendex is looking to add three or four senior network engineers to its 14-person team. But Husni is having trouble finding talented people to keep up with client demands.
“Just finding folks who have the skill set I’m looking for is very, very difficult,” he says. “The guys who have been with me who are successful have been with me 10 to 15 years.” Like many IT companies, Husni finds that applicants have the training, but they don’t have the hands-on experience. “A lot of people have the credentials, but they don’t have the experience to back it up,” he says.
So in the meantime, Husni came up with a solution. He hires entry-level people and puts them in the field with clients who want someone on-site 40 hours a week. They have the knowledge for basic support and at the same time have the backup of senior level staff if there’s a more advanced problem.
“They get the opportunity to get real world experience, but when they get stuck they can call our senior engineers.” Husni says. “It’s a sort of proving ground. It works for the client because they get 40 hours of help at a low cost. It works for me because they get the training they need.”
Source: Jonathan Husni
Writer: Karin Connelly

Landor Cincinnati, Dress for Success show off fashion

Landor Cincinnati is more than a branding firm that produces client-driven work. It’s a creative community of individuals with a propensity to improve the Queen City. 

“It’s really just part of our culture to engage in our community in a really significant way,” says Steve McGowan, executive creative director at Landor. “Anyone in our building, any of our associates—if they have a concept, they’re free to bring it to us, and we almost 99.9 percent participate and help them make a difference in the community.” 

The company’s partnership with Dress for Success Cincinnati, a non-profit aimed at increasing women’s confidence by providing professional attire and job-readiness coaching, will celebrate four years together today at the organization’s annual fashion show at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom downtown.

“There’s something great about the Dress For Success partnership in that the power in branding is to make that human connection—that really authentic connection,” says McGowan, adding that everything DFS believes in was reflected in the design decisions and ultimate feel of the event—from centerpieces to invitations to the show. “There’s a synergistic relationship that happens when something like this comes together, so when we do find those relationships, we hold on to them yearly because we know we’re helping to empower women, and in the process, empowering our designers to make a change and make a difference. 

For Jessie Zettler, Landor’s associate design director, the fashion show is a particularly gratifying event, because DFS clients are able to walk the catwalk and share their personal success stories. 

“We really believe in the power of design and creativity—change the world for the better,” Zettler says. “And a lot of the efforts Landor is investing in are great examples of that. When you see all that hard work, the blood sweat and tears come to life, it’s so fulfilling for all of us.” 

By Brittany York

Downtown Cleveland Alliance hosts first all-Ohio BID conference

As millenials, empty nesters and other demographic groups flock to downtowns across Ohio, business improvement districts -- or BIDs -- are playing an important role in ensuring that these areas are clean and safe and that residents, office workers and property owners have the amenities they need to thrive.

A business improvement district is a defined area within which property owners pay an additional tax to fund projects and services that enhance the area. Downtown Cleveland has a BID, and the organization provides basic "clean and safe" services, organizes events and markets downtown to prospective residents, visitors and businesses.

This week, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which manages the downtown BID, organized the first all-Ohio BID conference, bringing together BID leaders from across the state to network and learn about issues they share in common.

"It came from the idea that there's not a unifying organization or conference for BIDs," says Anna Beyerle with DCA. "We can learn a lot from other BIDs across Ohio. The idea was to get in the same room and throw out ideas and best practices."

Topics included food truck legislation, downtown transportation, farmers markets, placemaking, and office and retail recruitment strategies.

Participants also enjoyed several tours of downtown Cleveland and the surrounding area and had a chance to learn from Cleveland's redevelopment.

Beyerle says the conference will help BIDs, such as the one in downtown Cleveland, to become more effective. "We're up for renewal in a couple years, and we're looking at how we can improve."

Source: Anna Beyerle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

Study: northeast Ohio's tech startups generated $270m in economic impact in 2012

An annual study conducted by Cleveland State University’s Center for Economic Development at the Levin College of Urban Affairs shows that startup companies in Northeast Ohio contribute significantly to the economy. The study surveyed tech-based companies that received assistance, either financially or in services, through JumpStart or the North Coast Angel Fund.
The 127 companies who participated in the study generated $211 million in economic benefits in Northeast Ohio in 2012, $270 million statewide. These companies helped create and retain 1,100 in-state direct jobs, with a total Ohio employment impact of 2,140. The companies and their suppliers also increased total Ohio household earnings by $125 million and contributed nearly $12 million in state and local tax impact.
As the early-stage companies grow, their impact increases, according to the study. Among those surveyed, 44 companies participated over three years -- from 2010 to 2012, showing 53 percent job growth and a 36 percent increase in economic impact over those three years.
“These numbers quantify the impact small companies made,” says Cathy Belk, JumpStart COO. “Small companies make a big difference.  It’s exciting to see the impact the companies we see every day are having. We see how hard these companies are working.”
With all of the organizations in Cleveland that support startups, in addition to support from Ohio Third Frontier, which provides funding to organizations like JumpStart, the region is ideal for new businesses.

“We continue to believe that Northeast Ohio is the best place in the country to have a small business or a new business,” says Belk. “We have such a robust ecosystem for startups and small business.”

Source: Cathy Belk
Writer: Karin Connelly

Northeast Ohioans flock to national work training program

WorkAdvance, a national program that provides low-income and low-skilled individuals with employment training, in conjunction with Towards Employment, a Cuyahoga County-based employment readiness agency, and seven other collaborators, has enrolled 465 local participants in its training program.

Enrollment began in June. The participants are receiving skills training and career services in manufacturing and healthcare. Rebecca Kusner, director of WorkAdvance, says two-thirds of the Cuyahoga County participants are from Cleveland.
The WorkAdvance program is part of a study to show that low-skill and low-income people with barriers to employment can meet companies’ needs if they are offered coordinated skills training and career coaching. “Often, people get GED services, but not technical training,” says Kusner. “WorkAdvance puts together all the services people need to not only get a job, but continue along a career pathway so they don’t end up back on public assistance.”
Northeast Ohio is one of four sites nationwide in the study. The program operates through federal funding from the Social Innovation Fund and under a local investment from the Fund for Our Economic Future.
Manufacturing and health care are two areas most in need of trained workers, Kusner says. “We talked to employers in both fields and asked them where they feel the pain,” she explains, adding that qualified welders were particularly in demand in Northeast Ohio.
Participants receive training at places like Tri-C, Lincoln Electric, and Lakeland Community College. Kusner reports that 30 percent of those participants in jobs after training have already received wage increases.

Source: Rebecca Kusner
Writer: Karin Connelly

edison welding institute sparks innovative approach to training welders

The Ohio Department of Development has seven Edison Technology Centers located around the state to provide a variety of product and process innovation and commercialization services to both established and early-stage technology-based businesses.

The Edison Welding Institute (EWI) in Columbus is one of those centers.

EWI recently launched a spinoff company – RealWeld Systems, Inc. (RWS) and unveiled its new product – the RealWeld Trainer.

“For about six years, EWI studied the problem of training welders,” explains Bill Forquer, RWS launch ceo. “It’s really hard to train welders effectively and efficiently. It’s a very skilled trade, and most of the training techniques involve an instructor looking over your shoulder and helping you properly position the torch, guiding the angle and advising how fast you should move. It involves a lot of hand eye coordination, as well as reading and interpreting the specifications for the kind of weld needed.”

The RealWeldTrainer provides the solution to the problem, Forquer says. “It’s the first and only training solution available that digitally records motions and objectively scores welding technique while performing real welds under production conditions.”

He likens the equipment to an airplane pilot simulator. “In the case of the RealWeld Trainer, however, the individual is actually welding,” he explains. “There’s a camera system that measures all your hand motions, angles and speed and records whether you’re using proper technique. It provides that data to you immediately on the screen after you’ve made a weld. It also provides consistency in training.”

He points out that, in addition to training, companies can use the equipment to screen welders before hiring them. According to Forquer, the RealWeld Trainer is state of the art. “It’s truly unique and has no competitors.”

The device costs $35,000, and potential customers include manufacturers who hire and train welders as well as vocational schools and labor unions who train welders. “We have half a dozen early adopter customers we’re working with right now who want to see how it works in their environment,” he notes.
Source:  Bill Forquer, RealWeld Systems
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

Cincinnati State, AK Steel team up for advanced manufacturing training

Cincinnati State’s Workforce Development Center in Evendale has teamed with AK Steel to provide a new advanced manufacturing training program for the company's workers.

The 400-hour Electronic Repairman Training program is one of the latest the Workforce Development Center has developed in response to local employer demand. The center has developed programs for Procter & Gamble and GE, among other major Cincinnati area employers.

AK Steel is headquartered in West Chester with major operations in Middletown, Mansfield, Coshocton and Zanesville. The company is a worldwide manufacturer of steel products for the automotive, infrastructure, manufacturing, construction and electrical power markets.

This is the Workforce Development Center's first partnership with AK Steel. The training program is about three weeks in, will last 15 months and train approximately 16 workers, says Larry Cherveny, the center's Industrial Maintenance and Green Technologies business manager.

Steeped in math, controls and electricity, the program is designed to train workers in modern manufacturing. Course titles include: motor controls, industrial electronics, industrial controls and instrumentation, motion control and AC & DC drives.

The Workforce Development Center offers a variety of certifications and programs for working students as well as modifies and creates programs for employers, Cherveny says.

"Companies come and ask us to develop these very specific programs, and we're able to customize them to fit what the need is. We see it sort of as a challenge. For instance, we weren't doing the DC drives training before, and through some donations, we were about to get about $7,000 worth of training equipment," Cherveny says.

The center works to meet company and worker demand in a fast-changing economic atmosphere. Courses are held at the Evendale Center as well as on company campuses. The center has even taken training programs across the country and to Mexico, Cherveny says.

"We are flexible and change quickly," he says. "As they come to us with new needs, that tells us the direction that we need to look into."

By Feoshia Henderson
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$5-million grant aimed at retraining displaced workers for biosciences

A $5-million federal grant is aimed at revving up the skills of Ohio's displaced auto and other workers, training them for jobs in the growing bioscience world.

The grant was awarded to BioOhio, a nonprofit, Columbus-based bioscience accelerator, for its Ohio Bioscience Industry Workforce Preparedness Project. BioOhio doled grants to Cincinnati State Technical and Community CollegeColumbus State Community CollegeCuyahoga Community CollegeLakeland Community CollegeOwens Community College and Sinclair Community College.

The initiative will take place over three years, and more than $2.8 million of grant has been set aside for tuition reimbursement and trainee scholarships

The dollars will be used to create new programs or build on new ones at the colleges, which are partnering with employers and labor, workforce development and non-profit organizations to develop programs to retrain and identify workers in Ohio's auto and other declining industries.

The program is focused not just on education and training but moving people into jobs through the public and private partnerships says Dr. Bill Tacon, Senior Director, Workforce & Education at BioOhio.

"We will help them find a job. We're not simply training and just letting them go. Each has an industry advisory board, and when we got the grant the industry advisory board signed a letter of commitment saying they are looking at new potential hires," Tacon says.

The program has a goal of retraining 660 displaced or underemployed workers in declining industries

Northeast Ohio is leading the charge, because the region's colleges have several programs in place that likely will spread to other campuses, Tacon says. For example, Cuyahoga Community College and partners have a medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing program that could be implemented across the state.

Source: Bill Tacon, BioOhio
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

Parsley Hollow: When life gives you lemons, make pet shampoo

When life gives you lemons, make shampoo. That seems to be the motto of Gay and Buz Fifer, a Wooster couple working to take their pet care company to the next level by focusing on a line of all-natural products.

Parsley Hollow, which began selling its products in 2005, grew from an all-too-common circumstance in today's economy: Both she and her husband had been laid off from their jobs.

"I'm 63, Buz is 65, we had good careers, we had good jobs, we have good resumes, but nobody wants to hire people who are our age," Gay says. "And so we started a business."

Gay says that before Parsley Hollow sold its first product, she already had been "making these organic, all natural products for my own animals, which had skin problems." One day, she asked her vet if he thought she could make something that might be as effective as the expensive stuff sold commercially. "And he said 'yeah, I think you could.'"

In fact, that vet carried the Parsley Hollow line until his recent retirement, the Fifers say.

Today, the company sells six products, all of which the Fifers say differ from most mainstream pet products because they are "completely all natural and organic." Additionally, each product includes a natural antibacterial agent, Gay says.

The company has some celebrity endorsements, including legendary Miami Dolphins running back Larry Csonka and country artist Kasey Lansdale. Three veterinarians, 10 specialty pet stores and 12 groceries are actively selling the products, Buz says.

While an economic downturn has affected sales, the Fifers say they are negotiating a national deal that could put their products on shelves nationally -- though under a different name -- late this year.

Sources: Gay and Buz Fifer, Parsley Hollow
Writer: Gene Monteith

Hard knocks in Clinton County lead to talk of renewables

The city of Wilmington and Clinton County have faced some hard knocks following the recent pullout of major employer DHL Worldwide Express, which cost the Southwest Ohio area thousands of good jobs. But creative local officials are looking toward the future with an innovative renewable energy employer incentive program to create new jobs.

Wilmington officials this year created the country's first Green Enterprise Zone in Wilmington and Union Township. Renewable energy businesses that locate in the zone will be given tax and other incentives to locate there.

"Our goal is to have a group of companies here that would be related solely to alternative energy, and we are going after those folks," says Clinton County Administrator Dr. Mark Brooker.

Already, the Green Enterprise Zone has sparked interest. UK-based Gaia Energy is in the design phase of a pilot program that will convert biomass from local farmers into energy that will fuel coal burning power plants, says Brooker. If the pilot proves successful, the company could expand it.

"They will be buying crop residue from the local farmers initially," Brooker says. "They want to start testing this by the fall harvest."

At least two other companies are very interested in locating in the Green Enterprise Zone, including one that has property under contract, says Brooker, adding that more details should be announced on those companies near the end of the year.

Find out more about these efforts at Energize Clinton County.

Source: Mark Brooker
Writer: Feoshia Henderson


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